By: Krista Didzbalis '19
David Antebi is a former associate professor at the SSW who retired in 1991. He has incorporated the use of art and media in his teaching and practice of social work by photographing and documenting to spread awareness about the profession and issues within the field.
The photograph included in this article was featured on the back cover of our fall 2018 issue of Partnering for Change.
David, can you describe the event in the picture?
Antebi: I took the photograph during the Solidarity Rally in Washington D.C in October 1981. A group of about 45 of our Rutgers social work students and myself traveled to D.C by a bus that was sponsored by the communication workers union.
The National Association of Social Workers national office became aware of our arrival and they asked if we hold a banner for them while we marched, and of course our students were more than willing.
When you were teaching at the SSW, did you ever have your students incorporate art into their coursework?
Antebi: Yes, I always encouraged students to incorporate art into their work and trusted their creativity.
Shortly after the death of MLK in April 1968, there was a unanimous feeling by students and teachers that the school and students should be more actively involved. Several faculty were engaged and we created the social action center. I was the director and remained the director for 24 years. In that organization, we were able to encourage students that wanted to be active to undertake an independent study for credit and create something of their own involving art.
I recall one group of students that were very bothered by cutbacks in the funding for welfare programs, so they developed a performance art piece with music, costumes and background design that was a play on the story "The Big Bad Wolf" . They preformed on the street in several areas on campus to draw people's attention. They even received publicity from the Daily Targum newspaper.
Another time we created a 26 minute video called "The Profession for All People", which told the story of social work through student, faculty, and professionals in the field. The video spread the word about the profession and was presented several times on public service television-- we even sold ten copies!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Antebi: When I was in graduate school, I recall having to write a paper about the subjects of public relations and publicity. In doing that, I thought about how poorly social workers were represented in the pages of the newspaper, radio, and other media. I felt we had a story that should be told so that's when I began to work with different artistic mediums to tell it.
Through the years, I would normally accompany my images with interview material, a presentation of problems, with some comments from the people photographed and then a policy piece at the end. Its resulted in boxes and boxes of photographs that all tell a story.
My hand always has a camera in it. We need to continue to be a part of that as a whole, so that our stories continue to be told.